When Amy Powell and Christina Lau Tam first met at the Four Seasons Hong Kong in 2018, it was only natural that the two would wind up talking about their favorite topic: wine.
At the time, Tam had been working as a wine writer while earning her wine certification. Powell, who had previously worked for a French wine importer in New York City, was the director of communications at the luxury hotel. Each possessed more knowledge, experience and passion than your average wine enthusiast, and they shared a sentiment that something was missing from Hong Kong’s wine scene.
“We agreed that we don’t have that same kind of neighborhood wine shop experience that other cities have,” says Powell. “We find that people get very stuck in their ways here, buying the same bottle of wine over and over again.”
Powell and Tam pooled their expertise and networks in the food and beverage industry to launch their wine subscription box company, TOASST, in November 2019. Highlighting lesser-known grape varietals, up-and-coming regions, and smaller, often sustainable producers, husband-and-wife teams and woman-run wineries, TOASST’s selections are designed to bring new flavor experiences into their customers’ homes – a sort of “neighborhood sommelier.” The boxes also include tasting notes, food pairings, and short profiles on each bottle and winery.
“The information we provide is what a sommelier would do, and we’re enabling our customers to inhabit that role,” says Tam. “Our members will have a dinner party, bring the wines out, and be able to talk about them with authority. They become experts on them.”
Powell notes that TOASST’s approach does more than just impress at parties; it aligns with a modern shift in consumer preferences. “People are becoming better-informed consumers about what they eat, and they expect the same about what they’re drinking.”
Looking for a wine recommendation for your next brunch picnic, or dinner party this summer? Try one of these hidden gems, hand-selected by the experts for their delicious flavors and fascinating backstories.
1. Vilafonté Seriously Old Dirt (South Africa)
Pour it into: BOMSHBEE’s O Wine glasses
“I love a universal wine glass like BOMSHBEE’s O Wine because it takes away all the complexities of which glassware to serve with,” says Powell.
That’s a good thing, because this impressive red from South Africa’s Western Cape deserves all of your attention. A Bordeaux blend with a tongue-in-cheek name, Seriously Old Dirt, refers to the ancient vilafonté soils used to produce the winery’s signature grapes.
“It has this round, silky finish with elegant tannins, balanced acidity, and bright cherry fruit,” says Powell. “It’s got a little bit of something for everybody! You really can enjoy a red like this year-round.”
2. JANSZ Premium Cuvee (Tasmania)
Pour it into: BOMSHBEE’s O Champagne glasses
“We reach for this bottle when we want to introduce people to what sparkling wine can be like outside of Champagne,” says Powell. Tasmania’s cooler climate, she explains, lends itself particularly well to this wine. It’s a blend of chardonnay and pinot noir – a perfect crowd-pleaser during the hotter months.
“It’s got a bit of creamy brioche, but it’s also a New World wine, so there are tropical aromas of citrus, strawberry and lemon,” she says. Both she and Tam are self-confessed sparkling wine fanatics, and they say that a long elegant flute – like BOMSHBEE’s O Champagne glasses – is essential to showcase the wine’s fine and lingering bubble stream.
3. Ca’del Bosco Franciacorta Cuvee Prestige Brut NV (Italy): Chandelier Eidos
“People usually associate Italian sparkling wine with prosecco, but there are actually other types,” Tam says. “Franciacorta, in the northeast of Italy, is a tiny region dedicated to sparkling wine. There are five sparkling wine houses there, and we carry Ca’del Bosco – a lovely family winery.”
Compared to the JANSZ, Tam describes the wine as having a more textural, slightly more refined feel. “It’s Champagne quality, but with a more mineral finish,” she explains. “It’s on the yeasty side but drier, which is why we like the broad, shallow bowl of BOMSHBEE’s Chandelier Eidos. It captures the apple and pear aromas, as well as the depth of this particular wine.”
4. And don’t forget… Mineral or sparkling water
Pour it into: BOMSHBEE’s Optic DOF glasses
Water might not seem as sexy as a lush red or an effervescent sparkling, but both experts insist that it’s integral to enjoying your wine-tasting experience. “People often ask us how they can get more into wine without suffering from hangovers,” says Tam. “Staying hydrated is my best advice; I always have a glass of water beside me when I’m doing a tasting. You’ll enjoy your wine so much more with a clear head the next day.”
To keep the tablescape as elegant as possible, Tam says she prefers a sophisticated water glass that feels at home among the vintage coupes, slender flutes and dramatic, wide-bowled wine glasses. Crafted with mouth-blown soda lime glass with subtle vertical lines that catch the light, Tam says BOMSHBEE’s Optic DOF is a winner in her book.
Photo Credits: Ben Marans Photography